Comic actress Lily Tomlin, still seeking answers to human existence, will bring her 1985 solo hit, Jane Wagner's The Search for Sign of Intelligent Life in the Universe, back to Broadway for 10 weeks beginning Nov. 11, at a theatre to be announced. The show officially opens Nov. 16.
Tomlin had something of a tryout for the upcoming run in 1999, when she toured a trim concert version of the play to 30 cities between September and December. Dates at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Sept. 6-Oct. 7) and McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (Oct.17-Nov. 5) will precede Broadway.
Tomlin, known for her quirky characters on TV's "Laugh-In" and "Murphy Brown," and in films such as "Nashville" and "9 to 5," won a Best Actress Tony Award in 1985-86 for playing Wagner's varied series of scenes and characters. The script is loaded with incisive seriocomic observations about post 1960s cultural attitudes, expectations and consequences. Wagner, her longtime collaborator, failed to get a nomination.
The show set out on a successful national tour in 1990-91. In the original, Tomlin played a punker teen, a wise bag lady, hookers, a fitness freak, a husband, a lesbian editor and more.
In 1999, writer-director Wagner approached the show with a fresh eye in anticipation of the new century, according to a tour spokesperson. It was not immediately clear if new material would be part of the new Broadway staging, or how involved the scenic elements would be. *
One of the more celebrated lines of the play had a character named Lynn, struggling to be a superwoman, observing, "If I had known what it would be like to have it all, I might have settled for less."
The 1999 tour was considered an exploratory reapproach to see how the material played more than a decade after it premiered. The tour was a Delsener Slater production, produced by Tomlin.
Tomlin is a Detroit native who rose to fame on late 1960s TV and graduated to films such as "All of Me," "Incredible Shrinking Woman," "Moment by Moment" (directed by Wagner), "Nashville" and, recently, "Tea With Mussolini."
Her previous Broadway show, Appearing Nitely, in 1977, earned her a Special Tony Award.
-- By Kenneth Jones